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MERICS researchers discuss and analyze developments and current affairs in China: What is behind the Belt and Road Initiative? What kind of leader is Xi Jinping? How should we assess China’s climate change policies? How does the Chinese government use social media to its own ends?

In addition to MERICS’s own staff, other experts on China and guest speakers at MERICS also take part in the interviews.

The MERICS Experts Podcast is produced by Ruth Kirchner.

Follow us on Soundcloud or iTunes to see which podcasts we are currently airing or click on the RSS feed here to subscribe to our channel.


You Ji: China aims to project military strength well beyond its borders

July 26, 2016

Xi Jinping has used military reforms to strengthen his command over the People’s Liberation Army. And he’s using personal connections, some dating back to his childhood years, to fill central positions within the military, says professor You Ji of Macau University. On strategy, Xi is moving away from his predecessors’ approach. China is now preparing to project power well beyond its borders, catch up with the U.S. and achieve “Great Power Status” built upon military strength. That’s You Ji in the latest Merics Experts podcast.

Victor Shih: Xi Jinping and the power question

July 22, 2016

For years China was led by consensus – factions in the upper echelons of power were carefully calibrated to keep a balance. But with Xi Jinping all that has changed, says Victor Shih of the University of California, San Diego. Since Xi’s faction within the Central Committee is still rather small, he established a number of new leading small groups to strengthen his influence on policy making. At the 19th party congress next year Xi could now try to shrink the size of the powerful Politburo Standing Committee to obtain absolute power within the CCP. That’s Victor Shih in the latest Merics Experts Podcast.

Barry Naughton: "Xi Jinping is not an economic thinker"

July 7, 2016

Expectations for market oriented reforms were running high after the CCP’s 3rd plenum in 2013. But three years on Barry Naughton of the University of California, San Diego, is disappointed: Reform plans have come to nothing; economic problems got worse; the centralization of power has led to paralysis among bureaucrats. Xi Jinping is “political down to his fingernails” but not an economic thinker, says Naughton: “Xi is attached to the long term objective of reform but has only the weakest of attachments to the practical measures that need to be taken to get there.” Now the leadership could read the Brexit vote as another indication that global free markets and institutions are unreliable and unattractive. That’s Barry Naughton in the new Merics Experts podcast.

Tony Saich: “As authoritarian leader I would want to learn from China”

July 1, 2016

The speed with which Xi Jinping has introduced stronger controls on society has surprised many China watchers. The Xi administration has been “extraordinarily successful” in controlling and shaping political communication especially online says Anthony Saich of Harvard Kennedy School: “If I was an authoritarian leader somewhere else in the world, I would want to learn lessons from China.” Moreover, laws constraining foreign NGOs while encouraging domestic charity work for causes close to the CCP’s priorities tend to further reduce space for association and new ideas.

MacFarquhar: China’s strong top man heads a very fragile system

June 30, 2016

Xi Jinping has centralized power in China to unprecedented levels: he has sidelined both the prime minister and the state council and is trying to control everything himself says distinguished Harvard historian Roderick MacFarquhar. Xi might have – like Mao Zedong long before him - a vision and a sense of direction for China but he lacks the authority and historic legitimacy to implement his ideas. Even worse: his leadership style weakens the entire system. That’s Roderick Macfarquhar in the new Merics Experts podcast.

China Dispute: Will Top-Down Leadership Achieve Political Stability?

June 28, 2016

Review of MERICS China Dispute “The Xi Jinping challenge: Will top-down leadership achieve political stability in China?” with Richard McGregor, Roderick MacFarquhar, Sebastian Heilmann and Anthony Saich.

Michael Fuchs: Trump's „unpredictability is not a foreign policy“

June 21, 2016

China is one of Donald Trump’s favourite punching bags. If elected to the White House, he wants to label China a “currency manipulator” and impose hefty tariffs on imports from China. Such talk makes Michael Fuchs of the Center for American Progress and a former advisor to Hillary Clinton rather uneasy. “Trump is unpredictable” he says in the new Merics Experts podcast. And he warns: “Unpredictability is not a foreign policy”. How much damage can Trump do to the complex Sino-American relationship? And is that relationship going to become more competitive no matter who enters the White House?

Arthur Kroeber: "China’s economic policies lack clarity and direction"

June 9, 2016

With the right economic policies China could continue to grow at a rate of about five per cent per year for another decade says Arthur Kroeber of Gavecal Dragonomics, an independent research firm in Beijing. But the country would have to cut SOEs by up to a half and push through financial reforms. However, Xi Jingping’s economic policies lack clarity and direction. China still depends too much on stimulus measures and credit to keep the economy going. Little change is in the offing with the 19th party congress already looming large.

Han Dongfang: Labour relations are key to reforms in China

June 6, 2016

Tensions on Chinese factory floors have been running high recently – because of non-payment of wages and because some industries have moved their investments to other parts of Asia. Labour relations are fraught and protests can potentially threaten social stability says Han Dongfang, founder of the NGO China Labour Bulletin and a former Tian’anmen activist now based in Hongkong. He is confident though that the government is looking for a long-term solution and seems willing to make collective workplace bargaining easier. In the long run, true trade union reform could be a game changer in China, says Han Dongfang.

Shawn Shieh: New NGO-Law – The door for international NGOs remains open

May 26, 2016

Many non-governmental organisations are concerned about a new Chinese law that imposes tighter controls on international non-profit groups working in China. The law is seen as an attempt to further squeeze the space of civil society. It could affect not just NGOs but also cultural exchanges and business associations. But a lot of details are still unclear, says Shawn Shieh, deputy director of China Labour Bulletin, an NGO based in Hongkong. How draconian the law is going to be depends largely on its implementation – in China that is often a rather patchy process.